“Ha ha ha, very funny”: An Ethnographic Study of Conversational Humor among College Students
Submitted to the Northwest Communication Association convention, Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, April 2014
In this paper we take up the topic of conversational humor by analyzing instances of teasing, joking, irony and banter in everyday settings in which these integral forms of talk play a part. This paper comes from an ethnographic project that was part of a class in language and culture, taught at a Catholic liberal arts college in a midsized city in Montana. In this exploration of conversational humor among college students – as they interacted for the most part in small groups of friends and acquaintances – we focus on interpretive and functional aspects of conversational humor. Through examining instances of conversational humor, we establish the careful collaboration among participants that maintaining a play frame entails. We also show that participants’ collaboration in seemingly superficial episodes of conversational humor accomplishes a host of relational tasks.